The stress of moving

We are moving from the flat we have lived in for about fifteen years. We’ve found another place to rent in Streatham or as the marble mouths who want to gentrify the borough insist on calling it, St. Reatham. Our current landlord has been great but periodically, for one reason or another, floats the idea of selling. The last time was earlier this year. He eventually told us to hold fire but it put the wind up us a little so we kept looking. At some point he was going to sell. Better for us to jump now rather than wait to be pushed. Finding the right place has taken a while but we think we’ve found somewhere nice but more importantly somewhere that has the potential to be long term. The idea of finding somewhere quickly is horrible, not least because it puts us at the mercy of that loathsome profession, the letting agent. I hate letting agents! I hate dealing with them. I hate being at their mercy. I find them unnecessarily rude. They have the social graces of an autistic teenager. And worst of all I hate feeling like I’m being ripped off. How they justify charging twice for the same service is beyond me? They charge you for finding the landlord a tenant while charging the landlord for their services. Make no mistake a letting agent works for the landlord. The landlord hires them to look after the property not the inverse. Thankfully we found our new place through a friend of a friend so we’re being spared the stress and indignity of dealing with an agent. We, like most people, would love to buy somewhere. The relative security of property ownership is attractive but because we rent the prospect of buying is an Everest of a problem. Even if we were pulling down above average earning, which we’re not, there wouldn’t be a lot left to save after you pay ever increasing rents, utility bill, travel and the basics of living. Bottom line, the cost of living in the United Kingdom and London in particular, is too high. Cost of living high. Prospect of saving low. No savings. No deposit. No deposit. No buy house. Even if we took advantage of the governments new help to buy scheme we’d have to find more than £17000 to place a five percent deposit on the flat we currently live in. We, like an ever increasing number of people, have to face the idea that we will never own a property of our own. This is a problem on so many levels it would take a book to cover them all. The immediate political problem is that if there is a generation who has to rent something must be done to help renters, improve their rights, make it fairer, more affordable, less vulnerable to the vagaries of the market, more long term and most of all devoid of autistic teenagers.

Motorway driving

For reasons that I don’t really want to go into I’ve had to do a lot of motorway driving recently. I must’ve done two thousand miles up and down the M1 between London and the North East. It’s exhausting; not because you have to sit in the same position for an extended period of time but because it’s so stressful. Driving on the motorways of the UK is nothing short of playing a twisted game of Russian roulette. But this isn’t the kind of Russian roulette that has you chamber the round, spin the cylinder, aim it at you head then pull the trigger. This is the kind of Russian roulette they play in Géla Babluani’s 13 (Tzameti). The kind of Russian roulette that has you chamber the round, spin the cylinder, point the gun at the guy in front then pull the trigger. The kind where you choose to play the game but someone else kills you. As I understand it the rules of motorway driving are relatively simple. They stipulate that you drive along the inside lane at no more than seventy miles an hour. The two adjacent lanes are intended for overtaking slower moving traffic. Once clear of the slower vehicle you should then return to the inside lane; all the time keeping the correct stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front. Yesterday I did about five hundred miles. In no particular order here are a few of the things that happened. While overtaking an articulated lorry, the driver decide he wanted to overtake the vehicle in front and suddenly pulled out. I was lucky there was no one to my right. If I hadn’t pulled over as quickly as did he would’ve hit me. On another occasion, on a fairly congested section of road, a car suddenly cut in front of me. I was forced to break hard or hit him. He just decided to pull over without following the basics of the highway code. There were a series of incidents involving drivers who seem incapable of using the inside lane; the middle lane hogger. I approached one vehicle from a clear inside lane. There was no reason for the car ahead to be in the middle lane. Rather than undertake him, very easy to do but illegal, I had to cross to the outside lane. No so bad until I got level with him and he woke up, decided he didn’t want to be overtaken and started to speed up. I returned to the inside lane as he pulled away. Five minutes later, a few more cars on the road and I overtook him? On another congested stretch of road, caused in no small part by these cruise control junkies hogging the middle lane, I found myself in the outside lane. I maintained a steady speed, had enough distance between me and the car in front until someone pulled in front of me, halving the stopping distance I had built up. This relatively minor action feeds a couple of other much more serious behaviours. There are the drivers doing significantly more than seventy miles an hour who insist on driving bumper to bumper with the vehicle in front; they stack themselves up like cards ready for a death match of fifty two card pickup. The sister to this is the light flashing tailgater. At one junction somewhere past Sheffield I pulled into the outside lane to give those joining the motorway room to do so. I passed one car as it speeded down the slip road and watched in my rear-view mirror as they joined the motorway, cut across all three lanes of traffic, until they were behind me, lights flashing for me to pull over because apparently I was in their way. I find this behaviour particularly infuriating. Vehicles doing well over the speed limit pulling in behind you and flashing their lights demanding you do something that usually isn’t possible. These are just a small percentage of the reckless behaviour I witnessed yesterday. I have no understanding of other road users behaviour. Part of me thinks they’re the product of a society dominated by rampant self-interest. I’m the only person of worth, you lot are a hinderance to my progress and should be forced to one side. Some might say this is just the law of the jungle. Survival of the fittest. You’re not fit enough to have the money to buy a massive SUV or Saloon car you’re not fit enough to be on my roads. I think on a very simple level the chaos of motorway driving is an indication of some fairly serious underlying social problems to do with a general lack of respect each of us has towards the other. Alternatively, there’s a kind of class war is being played out on the motorways. Just a thought?

I reworked my websites

For a couple of weeks now I’ve been trawling the themes section of the Worpress.com dashboard. I was bored with the way LessBeauty // MoreBrains looked and wanted something new for the site. I also felt I needed to establish better links between LessBeauty // MoreBrains and DarrinNighitngale // ScreenWriter. I was giving serious consideration to importing all the content from // MoreBrains into // ScreenWriter but didn’t really want to fill // ScreenWriter up with digigraphs. Hopefully what I’ve managed to do with the new layout is give each activity its own section while making them both look like they’re part of something bigger?

My social media is getting out of hand

I recently joined the AMPt Community. “AMPt Community’s goal is to become the premier resource for mobile photography/artistry… period.” Interesting site that I hope to get a lot from. But joining AMPt got me thinking about the various platforms I have an account with. This latest addition makes to wonder if my social media is getting out of hand.


I have two main sites DarrinNightingale // ScreenWriter and it’s sister site LessBeauty // MoreBrains. Most of the posts on this site are to do with my writing. I use it as a journal. As a way of working out ideas about the various aspects of whatever story I am working on. LessBeauty // MoreBrains is home to the constant stream of digigraphs I take. These digigraphs are posted to the site from Flickr. I use Flickr because it allows me to post directly to WordPress.com from my mobile. Although the free version of Flickr only displays the most recent two hundred images it still displays all the digigraphs posted to LessBeauty // MoreBrains going back to the first post; that’s five hundred images and counting. Doing it this way I get all the images I want on my website without having to worry about busting WordPress.com storage limits. Both DarrinNightingale // ScreenWriter and LessBeauty // MoreBrains automatically feed Twitter, which in turn feeds Facebook. I never contribute directly to Facebook. I only have an account because everyone else does. More accurately it is such a broad platform that people who would not normally show up on other social networks have a Facebook account. In the same way as DarrinNightingale // ScreenWriter and LessBeauty // MoreBrains feed Twitter they also feed LinkedIn. I have an account but don’t really work it as a social network. I find it a surprisingly closed. Daisy-chaining two WordPress.com sites, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook means I can post to two sites while distributing across six. Easy to stay on top of. So why is my social media getting out of hand? Because as well as the above mentioned platforms I also have accounts with Instagram, EyeEm, Backspaces and now AMPt Community? A big reason for LessBeauty // MoreBrains is Instagram. Joining Instagram started the digigraph ball rolling for me. The desire to post digigraphs made me go out and take more digigraphs. I would love it if Flickr could not only feed WordPress.com but also Instagram. Not likely as Instagram explicitly prohibits this. The recent uproar over Instagram’s amended terms of service prompted me to set up an EyeEm account. Same content different place. It involves a fair amount of reposting but not unmanageable. Additionally I have also started posting stories on Backspaces. Backspaces is new platform that is, from a content point of view, a combination of images and words. This is something completely separate from Instagram and EyeEm. It forces me to think in new ways about what I’m doing. That on it’s own is worth sticking with it for the time being. On top of all that I recently joined AMPt Community. More reposting of content that already appears on Istagram and EyeEm. All in all that’s five platforms all displaying the same digigraphs. Each platform reaches a slightly different audiance but because it reverses the daisy-chaining principle I employed with my main sites it is becoming increasingly time consuming to keep up with. Not sure what I will do but I’m giving serious consideration to sliming down the portfolio of social media. What I need is a social media hub. A site that distributes my content across all the other platforms. Any ideas?

Every digigraph tells a story, here’s mine

I take a lot of digital photographs or as I like to call them digigraphs. I create them exclusively with my iPhone and the vast array of apps it supports. I distinguish these images from the direct photochemical connection to reality that is photography because I think, while they share a vast array of similarities, there is something unique about the images generated in this way. The digital image is infinitely malleable giving it a deeply subjective relationship with reality. The mobile computer/camera allows us all to capture and shape our perception of the world and distribute that vision through social networks. I would not have started creating these images if not for my iPhone. It is always with me, ubiquitous, allowing me to capture candid moments without the intrusion brought by traditional equipment. I shoot almost every day, usually walking the streets while trying to keep the sun at my back. I rarely have the camera at eye level, preferring instead to hold it low while keeping a tangental eye on the screen. I cut the earbuds off the supplied headphones to make a digital shutter release so I can capture a scene with a click of the volume button. I distribute these images across several platforms, first to my digigrah stream LessBeauty // MoreBrains then to Instagram, EyeEm and most recently AMPt Community.

Another digigraph blog

I have been posting a lot digital photographs recently. There have been so many “digigraphs” of late that I have decided to set up an second web site LessBeauty // MoreBrains. The stream started when I joined Instagram. And while I liked the various quirky Polaroid-like frames Instagram offers. It feels less like a way of creating interesting images. And more like a way of connecting with people. A sort of visual Twitter. I know it’s obvious but it took me a while to clock that. For me Instagram didn’t really become interesting until I started using Hipstamatic. Hipstamatic is a digital photography application that shoots square photographs. Perfect for posting on Instagram. Hipstamatic also offers a number of software filters to make the image look as though they were taken with an antique film camera. The filters are added in the form of interchangeable lenses and films that can be used in combination to give different photographic qualities to your shot. What can I say it appeals to the geek in me. At present I like to combine Hipstamatic’s US176 and BlacKey films with a John S. or Lucifer VI lens. But there are a dozen more lenses and films I haven’t even tried yet. Shortly after discovering Hipstamatic I also came across the idea of app stacking. That is putting a digigraph through several apps to generate a plethora of interesting results. The example above “Spider” was created by stacking an image taken in Hipstamatic through FrameMagic. I then layered the two images I produced in Blender with a background created in SketchTime. Finally I posted the stacked image on Insagram using the Toaster frame. I’m not entirely sure what these digigraphs are. Other than to say they’re sketches for something as yet to be defined. Anyway I will not be posting so many digigraphs here. Instead all my digigraph efforts will take up space on LessBeauty // MoreBrains.

Auto-post from instagram to wordpress

I recently started using instagram. And have been struggling to post the images directly to this site. WordPress offer a post by email service. So I thought it would be a simple matter of emailing the pictures directly to wordpress. I quickly realised I had no control over the size of the emailed image. As you can see the theme I use has a relatively narrow post area. This meant I had to go back into wordpress. And resize the image each time I posted. Time consuming. Especially when I was trying to do it on the go. The wordpress iPhone app is okay. But lacks the functionality necessary to do that particular operation easily. I needed a way to control both the size and position of the posted image. After much trial and error I have found a way to auto-post my instagram images to wordpress. Basically I email the instagram image to flickr. And flickr auto-posts here. To make it work you need three things. First the instagram app. Second a wordpress blog. And finally an account on flickr. First things first. You need to set wordpress to enable auto-embeds. To do this log into your wordpress account. And navigate…

Dashboard.
Setting.
Media.
Auto-embeds.
Check the “Enable auto-embeds” box.
Save changes.

Then you need to set the default post category. To do this navigate…

Dashboard.
Setting.
Writing.
Default post category.
Select a default post category from the drop-down menu. (Unfortunately you can only choose one. I use photography.)
Save changes.

Once that’s done. Head over to flickr. And connect your flickr account to your wordpress account. On your flickr account page navigate…

You.
Your account.
Sharing & extending.
More sites.
Wordpress.

Enter the relevant information in the pop-up window…

API Endpoint (your-blog.url).
Username.
Password.
Check the “Save my password” box.

Then confirm by clicking…

Next.

If you’re having trouble check out the WordPress support page. It will guide you through he process. With that done you now need to set the default layout for images posted to wordpress. I wanted to post my images at 450 pixels wide. To do that you need to select a blog layout. Navigate…

You.
Your account.
Sharing & extending.
Wordpress.
Edit.
Select a blog layout.

You are then prompted with…

Select a template for blogging a photo

From the templates available select…

500px on its own line.

On the next screen select…

Customize.

It’s now possible to edit the CSS. I replaced…

<div style="margin: 0 0 10px 0; padding: 0; font-size: 0.8em; line-height: 1.6em;">
<a href="{photo_url}" title="{photo_title}">
<img src="{photo_src}" alt="{photo_title} by {uploader_name}" /></a>
<br/>
<span style="margin: 0;"><a href="{photo_url}">{photo_title}</a>, a photo by <a href="{uploader_profile}">{uploader_name}</a> on Flickr.</span>
</div>
<p>{description}</p>

With…

<div style="margin: 0 0 10px 0; padding: 0; font-size: 0.8em; line-height: 1.6em;">
<a href="{photo_url}" title="{photo_title}" target="_blank">
<img class="aligncenter" img src="{photo_src}" alt="{photo_title} by {uploader_name}" width="450" /></a>
<br/>
<span style="margin: 0;"><a href="{photo_url}">{photo_title}</a>, a photo by <a href="{uploader_profile}">{uploader_name}</a> on Flickr.</span>
</div>
<p>{description}</p>

For the purposes of this post I’ve broken the code down into lines. It’s all based on a post already made in wordpress. As you can see I added target=”_blank” to line 2. A class=”aligncenter” and width=”450″ command to line 3. With that done you then need to select…

Preview.

On the preview screen confirm by selecting…

Save this layout.

That done it is now possible to post images directly from flickr. And have them appear correctly formatted in wordpress. You just hit the wordpress share button. But to do it directly from instagram you need to set up flickr’s upload by email option. To do this navigate…

You.
Your account.
Emails & Notifications.

In the upload by email options select…

Edit.

You will either see an option to create an upload-to-flickr email address. Or an email address that looks something like this…

emailphotos@photos.flickr.com

This is not the email address you use. This will only email your photos to flickr. Good if you want to post directly from your camera roll. But instagram will auto-post to flickr for you. So there’s not much point. To post to wordpress you need the email address in the bottom right hand corner of the page under the heading “Upload to Blog?”. It should look something like this…

emailphotos2blog@photos.flickr.com

Add this address to your iPhone contacts. It’s now possible to post directly from instagram to wordpress. There are a couple of thing to be aware of. If like me your wordpress blog feeds your twitter account. Which in turn feeds my facebook account. You need to deselect these share options within instagram. I deselected all the instagram share options. So after I take my picture. Add select my frame. And add my caption. I can select the email sharing option. Auto-post from instagram to wordpress without having multiple entries all over the place.

Addicted to albums

I drink beer. I only drink German beer. And to my good fortune the German brewers Beck’s have been running a promotion with the download service Napster. One bottle of beer gets you one track credit. Brilliant. But for some reason I’m unable to buy one track at a time. I am compelled to buy albums. I’m addicted to buying albums. I know people fill their hard drives with an abundance of single tracks. But I just can’t do that. I like a track by a band and have to buy the album. Why is this? Is it a generational thing? I know in the old days a single was only released so punters would buy the album. But of late this paradigm has changed. The iPod was created as a mobile jukebox. And the jukebox was the ultimate collection of singles popular at any one time. It is my good fortune that the Beck’s/Napster promotion has been running long enough for me to be able to download multiple albums by The Velvet Underground, Grinderman, The Smiths, The Specials, The Last Shadow Puppets, Soft Cell, The Doors, The Human League, DJ Shadow, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Plan B, Bob Dylan, LCD Soundsystem, Prinzhorn Dance School, Sonic Youth and The Fall. Not sure if the promotion has made me drink more beer. But it has allowed me to get more music. And that has to be a good thing.

I got an iPhone

I got a new iPhone 4s yesterday. I’m not a natural Apple customer. So this is something of an unknown for me. To date I’ve avoided all things Apple. My main discomfort with the mighty fruit. Apart from the price. Is that while Mr. Jobs products look wonderful. The whole top town total integration of Apple’s product line feels a little fascist. I know that’s a bit harsh. And mostly it was said for effect. But it does feel bit like I’ve joined a cult. Someone said to me yesterday when they saw the phone. “They’re like crack cocaine.” I can only think he meant the iPhone will take over my life. A sobering thought as I am tied into this thing for two years. So why did I choose iPhone? I’ve been looking to get a new phone for while. And spent a long time weighing the pros and cons of a replacement for the dinosaur I used to carry. To date most of my phones have been supplied by Sony Ericsson. So I checked out their latest incarnations. While they were packed with features. And Android’s latest operating system. They were on the whole flimsy. And felt like they would crumble over time. I had a look at a couple of phones from Blackberry. The build quality was better. But their screens are too small. And I knew that would become an issue. So in the end I took the plunge. And got the new iPhone. Out of the box it feels substantial. It’s features and apps all seem intuitive. The first negative I’ve come across is the calendar app. For some reason you have limited control of repeat appointments. I want to repeat an appointment every twelve weeks. But find myself limited to every week. Month. Or year. I’m sure I’ll be able to find a replacement. But it’s still annoying that you can’t control appointments adequately. The phone’s on-screen keyboard might take a little getting used to. But I’ve managed to write this whole thing without too much trouble. Cut and paste options are still hard to control. My fingers are imprecise tools. Something more delicate is needed. Overall the whole experience reminds me a little of typing on my old Psion Revo. And I wrote a substantial amount of my first screenplay on one of those things. It might not be such a problem once I get to grips with the Siri function. Tried it out yesterday with limited success. Felt a bit of an idiot talking to myself. Amused my girlfriend though. In the end I think I chose the iPhone because it seemed like the best choice from a quality standpoint. It feel like I’m holding something that will last. Still not a hundred percent though. Feels a bit like I’ve gone and drunk the cool-aid. But we’ll see.